Challenges in Teaching for Critical Multicultural Citizenship: Student Teaching in an Accountability-Driven Context

From Section:
Multiculturalism & Diversity
Jul. 01, 2010
Summer, 2010

Source: Action in Teacher Education, Vol. 32, No. 2, (Summer, 2010), p. 97-109. (Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The purpose of this paper is to examine how three preservice teachers who supported the tenets of critical multicultural citizenship negotiated the constraints they encountered when trying to teach for this kind of citizenship in an urban school classroom.

Participants and Context of Study 
The participants in this case study are three preservice teachers, all minority teachers: Isabella Johnson, Audrey Monroe, and Joaquin Marfias.
Audrey, an African American, Isabella, a biracial African and Anglo American, and Joaquin, a Latino male.

Their student-teaching contexts were diverse: Audrey taught in a high school with a large Latino population that included many English-language learners ( Texas Education Agency, n.d.).
Isabella and Joaquin both taught in a nearby school district, serving a growing and diverse population of middle- and working-class students.
In their schools, Isabella and Joaquin reported having culturally diverse student bodies, including a fair distribution of African American students, Latino students, and Caucasian students. All these schools were located in central Texas.

This study utilized an instrumental case study method.
Data from this case study trace the participants' experiences during their student-teaching semester and include digitally recorded interviews, classroom observations, submitted weekly lesson plans, and journal responses.


The findings from this study revealed a variety of constraints that inhibited the ability of preservice teachers to teach for critical multicultural citizenship:.

Contextual Constraints- refers to policy and district-level issues that affect the ways in which teachers teach social studies. The push for standardized testing and accountability
(Grant & Salinas, 2008) served as the major contextual constraint reported by participants.
Classroom Constraints- centered on participants' issues with their cooperating teachers and problems with classroom management.
Internal Barriers – these constraints focused on personal concerns, ranging from feelings of a lack of time to doubts about one's ability to teach in ways that promote critical multicultural citizenship.

Negotiating Constraints in Teaching

Participants in this study negotiated constraints, mostly contextual, by de-emphasizing teaching to the test, finding ways to sneak in critical and multicultural social studies knowledge and contemporary issues into the curriculum, and incorporating multiple perspectives as a way to increase critical inquiry while teaching the facts necessary for standardized tests.

Although all three participants felt constrained by the culture of accountability, two were able to negotiate these constraints and implement critical multicultural citizenship education in their classrooms.
When compared to Joaquin, Isabella and Audrey had less academic freedom in their teaching, having to conform to a standard set of lessons and activities planned by other teachers in weekly planning sessions.
Audrey, in particular, had already communicated that she felt no ownership of her classroom.
Finally, participants covered tested material in a way that allowed them to introduce multiple perspectives in their teaching.


The author suggests that teacher educators must encourage their students to teach in ways that expand notions of citizenship and democratic instruction and also provide their preservice teachers with skills and strategies that they might need to teach against the grain.
Teacher educators must help their students negotiate the ideals of transformative citizenship education with the realities of the school contexts they will encounter.

Updated: Jan. 17, 2017
Accountability | Citizenship education | Constraints | Context effect | Critical theory | Educational environment | Educational strategies | Multicultural education | Preservice teachers | Student teacher attitudes